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August 23, 2021

Gender Budgeting in Latin America: Current Practices and Looking Forward

GB Seminar
Posted by Virginia Alonso, Laura Gores, Lorena Rivero, Laura Torrent, Lorena Barba, and Raquel Coello[1]

Gender inequality, already high in Latin America, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to growing inequality, policy action is needed and the use of gender-responsive budgeting tools can help identify gender gaps in policy responses and better target spending allocations and revenue measures. To support these efforts the IMF and UN Women have joined together to provide a workshop for Ministries of Finance and government agencies for women in Latin America (July 6-9, 2021). The event focused on introducing and strengthening gender budgeting (GB) tools.

Nearly 80 people participated in the workshop from 16 Latin American countries (6 Central and 10 South American). It was co-financed by the Regional Technical Assistance Center for Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic (CAPTAC-DR) and the European Union. Other international organizations and agencies also participated including European Union delegations, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Budget Partnership and the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Secretariat.

The workshop provided the opportunity to share regional experiences and good practices including from countries with longer experience of GB (Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala) or countries that are currently undertaking GB initiatives (Argentina, Colombia). Many other countries have some GB tools but have not fully integrated them into the budget cycle which is needed to enhance their impact (Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil). A few countries have not yet started GB or their current practice is weak, however they are interested in learning about GB tools and good practices. Others have invested in GB tools and capacity in the past, however the reform has stalled as the political impulse needed to sustain it overtime weakened. Most countries have GB in budget preparation but not in monitoring and execution, lessening its overall impact. This is a common result in all the regions in the world.

The main takeaways from the workshops include the following:

  • The COVID-19 crisis has regressed gender equality. Implicit gender biases in economic recovery policies can hinder faster economic growth. According to research by UN Women and the IMF, fiscal policies play a relevant role in reducing gender gaps and increasing the efficiency of public expenditure. Regional policy makers could acknowledge the need for a gender-sensitive economic recovery, analyzing the impact from the gender perspective of all new expenditure and revenue measures, as recommended by the IMF’s GB framework. The workshop highlighted the extensive impact of COVID on women especially as they are mostly responsible for childcare and are overrepresented in low wage sectors, the informal sector and in the areas most impacted by the crisis like tourism, health and education.
  • Several of the participating countries have tools to identify budget allocations for gender equality—tagging or budget classifications—with the Ministries of Finance assuming a central role in coordination with government agencies for women. Marking or tagging is more widely used, and its main advantages and challenges are:
    • Marking budget allocation generates immediately available data, strengthens public transparency, and improves the budgeting mechanism.
    • It creates greater awareness of the gender perspective in institutions and helps link civil society movements to the budget.
    • However, adopting a marking mechanism over the budget process and across institutions necessitates good ex ante evaluation and capacities at line ministries and Ministry of Finance to control for the quality of tagging.
  • Ex ante gender impact assessments are crucial to identify gender impacts of policy and budget proposals, however they are not yet a common practice in the region. Solid gender-disaggregated data, a clear institutional anchoring, a sound methodological framework and capacity development are all important elements to produce quality assessments that can feed into budget decisions.
  • Ex post evaluations and non-financial indicators are necessary to assess the results obtained in closing gender gaps. Ex-post evaluations are seldom done, lessening the feedback to the new budget process. Indicators in performance budgeting are more widespread and can be further developed to link the budgets with gender outcomes.
  • Transparency should accompany gender budgeting in the different stages of the budget cycle. The International Budget Partnership presented the results of their 2019 Open Budget Survey (OBS) and their COVID-19 rapid assessment. Their results indicated that only 15% of the 117 countries assessed display expenditures by gender in their budget proposals, and 22 countries published information on COVID-19 response policies targeted toward women. Open data on GB is growing in the region, additionally Uruguay, Mexico and Argentina use budget transparency portals to publish gender-related evaluations and indicators.
  • For a reform to be successful, it is important to ensure a permanent legal framework to support the reform and clear allocation of responsibilities to the different actors. In a practical case study exercise, participants discussed how to strengthen the regulatory framework in the short and long term to effectively achieve GB along the budget cycle.
  • GB is linked with other priority budgeting, such as budgeting for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender equality is part of the SDGs, through goal 5 and also other cross-cutting goals, targets, and indicators. Some countries in the region have initiated efforts to implement budgeting for the SDGs (such as Mexico, Colombia and Argentina) which should help decision-makers to reorient their public policies to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and report on progress.

The level of participation and engagement in the workshop demonstrated the relevance and stakeholder interest in GB. Although most countries in the region already implement some gender budgeting tools, there is still a long way to go. For this reason, the IMF together with UN Women and other multilateral organizations, are working to help countries adopt and strengthen their gender-responsive practices by offering direct technical assistance and workshops in all regions of the world.

 

[1] Virginia Alonso, Laura Gores, Lorena Rivero, and Laura Torrent work for the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department. Lorena Barba and Raquel Coello work for UN women.

Note: The posts on the IMF PFM Blog should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy.

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